I hate looking in the mirror when I work out. There are always those who feel comfortable right up front. They watch themselves in the mirror, comfortable as they bend and twist. Years ago, it was always a mystery to me when I would lift weights at the gym, as the guy next to me would grunt as he did curls and watched his arms fold up and then relax. 

These days, I take multiple classes a week, and usually try to stay to the middle and the back, and if for some reason I catch a glimpse of myself- I become self conscious. 

I take a Zumba class one night a week where one of the instructors turns off the lights. She has a disco type light that spins, and she is the only person you see in the dim light. It’s refreshing to not compare, or focus on how ridiculous you may look. Instead you laugh as you turn, and the music leaves you inhabited to dance because you enjoy it. 

What’s funny is when there’s no mirrors I’m just me. I’m not afraid to make sure my stomach is pulled in when I laugh. I’m not aware of the bags under my eyes, or how messy my hair looks. I’ll dance because I love to dance. I’m not worried about parts that sag or wobble. I’m not afraid of how my face looks when I say something funny, or about my chipped tooth. 

If there’s one thing I learned after writing for a year is no matter how flawed I can be, my capacity and craving for joy is insatiable. I search out joy. There is a holiness in joy. 

For too long I searched for joy in the exterior. Was I thin enough? Could I be prettier? If only I could fit into that size then I would be happy. When the past two years unfolded and my health became fragile, I found myself questioning what I’d thought was the key to joy.  That awareness led me to a place where those thoughts began to be something I loathed. I began to reevaluate how I did my job. I started to notice the overwhelming emphasis on how success so often equals  physical quality. It was everywhere. It is everywhere. I saw how people become enslaved to it…I almost lost someone to it, I was raised around it. And I was done. 

Because of them. Because of her. 

Because of how she sees herself in mirrors.  Because of how she looks at me. And how she acts the same when she’s not in front of one. She makes ridiculous faces. She dances with reckless beautiful abandon.  

She keeps teaching me that knowing who I am in my skin and out and being okay with who I am is a gratitude to God. And is a gift to those around me. 

Having my self worth based on the exterior, had become a weight too heavy for me to bear. It consumed my heart too often, and consumed every choice I was making. 

I am done. 

Is it easy? No. Rewriting and rewiring the way I have thought about myself for as long as I can remember just doesn’t feel natural. But I refuse to allow the sags and the wobbles to steal my joy. It is a slap in the face of my God and every single person who has seen the real me. And loved her. 

The real me loves her laugh lines, and the joys of a beautiful life. A real life.

I have a beautiful life. 

Because of them. Because of her. 

In 2016 I will look in the mirror…and I will search for the joy in the real me- and I won’t be self conscious. I will just dance. 

My prayer is for you to find the same. You are worth that. 

There is beauty in joy. 

There is a holiness in joy. 

And my life, my joy, and to my God be the glory.